Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) rises from the desert as an oasis of speed mere miles from the famed Las Vegas Strip. LVMS, originally dreamed of and built by two Las Vegas casino magnets, Ralph Engelstad (Imperial Palace) and Bill Bennett (Sahara), opened to the public in June of 1996. Comprised of more than 600,000 tons of concrete, 10 million linear feet of steel, and covering 1,600 acres the construction of LVMS was and still is the largest excavation project in Nevada history. The track was purchased by Bruton Smith and merged into the Speedway Motorsports Empire in 1998.
The property is truly a racer's dream as over a dozen racing venues are located here, including a dragway, dirt track, road course, and even a bicycle course. However, without question, the 1.5-mile superspeedway is the crown jewel. Sporting nine degree banking on the front stretch, twenty degree banking in the turns, and seating 130,000 race loving spectators the superspeedway is home to yearly visits from all of NASCAR's top national touring series, including Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and the Camping World truck series. LVMS has been seeking an additional Sprint Cup race for a number of years, as ticket demand is always strong due to the prime location and history of exciting racing. The track just experienced its 10th consecutive sellout, even as the track's seating capacity has grown by 30% over that time.
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One of the first things a race fan will often focus on after arriving at the track for a race weekend or deciding which track(s) to return to in the future is the food & beverages available. Unlike traditional stick and ball sports that tend to last only a few hours and possibly require only an afternoon or evening to enjoy, racing, and NASCAR specifically, is a much different experience. A large percentage of the fans at a NASCAR event are there for the entire weekend, meaning two, three, or even four days of racing action is in the cards. The time actually spent inside the facility's gates can also be substantial and it is not unusual for a fan to enter at eight or nine in the morning and not leave until five or six in the evening. As such, food and beverage options must be plentiful in order to satisfy a hungry (and thirsty!) race fan's appetite.
The questions a race fan will ask when it comes to food and beverage go something like this: Are enough concession outlets available so as not to miss half the race waiting in line? How is the selection and variety of concession offerings? What about the prices, are they reasonable and in line with other NASCAR venues? Does the facility permit fans to bring in outside food and beverage should they desire? At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, having limited concession outlets will not be a problem. It is virtually impossible to walk 50 feet without passing a concession stand. Add to that the kiosk style stands sprinkled among the permanent stands along the main concourse and a virtual midway of every food type imaginable just behind the main grandstands and you can't help but wonder if you walked into a food festival rather than a NASCAR race. If you come to a race at LVMS and do not find something to suit your taste palette then it likely would not be found at a sports facility in the first place.
The concession prices here at LVMS are not the lowest, but to be fair that is the case at most major sports facilities of this size and scope. I believe that most fans know what to expect in terms of pricing when it comes to concessions at "Major League" quality facilities and at Las Vegas, you certainly have plenty of choices to help ease the pain that can come from budgeting for food and beverage inside a track on race weekend. While at the track, I enjoyed items ranging from Nachos Supreme to BBQ Beef Brisket, sweets including a Funnel Cake and deep-fried Oreo Sandwich, even a Fried pickle. Needless to say, I left Las Vegas a few dollars lighter in the wallet but with a belt that felt just a little bit more snug than when I arrived.
The one caveat to the excellent food and beverage selection at LVMS is that coolers are not permitted inside the speedway's gates. This policy eliminates many fans method of being able to attend the races and at the same time save a little hard earned cash for other purposes such as a race program or a t-shirt from their favorite driver's souvenir hauler. I understand the logic behind the "No Coolers" policy, and Las Vegas is not alone in being the only NASCAR track with this policy, but personally, I am not so sure that completely banning them is the answer. LVMS does allow the fan to bring in bottles of un-opened water, which is a good thing here in the sun soaked desert, and of course, fans are permitted to enjoy food and beverage of their choice in the parking areas scattered around the property.
Being located in the self-proclaimed entertainment capital of the world does mean a certain amount of showmanship is built into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway experience. From the showgirls in Victory Lane to the man on stilts roaming the concourse, the entertainment aspect is always present. I would put forth an educated guess that the race weekend at LVMS draws more "out-of-towners" or at least more "out-of-the-region" fans than any other stop on the NASCAR circuit. A race at LVMS definitely is worthy of destination weekend status! Las Vegas is still among one of the "newer" tracks in NASCAR and as a result, the history in racing the track brings to the table is still growing.
The track is located about 15 minutes north of downtown Las Vegas, adjacent to Nellis Air Force Base, home of the famed USAF Thunderbirds precision flight demonstration team. Another bonus of experiencing a Sprint Cup Weekend at LVMS is that you are usually guaranteed a great pre-race flyby courtesy of the aforementioned Thunderbirds. The neighborhood surrounding the speedway is quite sparse, as you are on the outskirts of the desert adjacent to federal ground and the city of North Las Vegas. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, etc. did not appear to be located within walking distance of the speedway but a quick drive south would put all of these within reach. In the areas just south of the Speedway I observed numerous lodging options, restaurants (both of the sit-down and fast food variety), as well as shopping options.
Located adjacent to the speedway, between the superspeedway and Interstate 15 is an industrial park that seemed to be comprised of mostly automotive and racing related companies. 600 Racing, the builders of the highly successful Legends and Bandolero racecars occupies space here, as does the world headquarters of legendary automotive pioneer Carroll Shelby. I highly recommend spending a few minutes here if in town visiting LVMS. I visited on Friday, 2 days before the Spring Cup race, and the museum was packed with Shelby fans. Inside is an incredible assortment of Shelby produced vehicles and tour guides were offering brief, and free, tours of the facility. A great selection of Shelby themed merchandise is also available for purchase and Mr. Shelby himself is known to frequently stop by and visit during these times so by paying a visit you might have a chance to bump into a true American icon.
The crowd seemed to be comprised of a healthy mix of grizzled racing veterans, SoCal hot-rodders, and first-timers. The crowd was definitely not Martinsville or Bristol "seasoned" but then again I would not expect it to be. For what the crowd might have lacked in experience they certainly attempt to make up for in enthusiasm. The fans were clearly excited to be at LVMS and they were there to soak in not only the sun but also all the action the festivities could give them. It also did not hurt that the racing was hot and fast and battles on the track numerous. In 2007, the track's banking in the turns was increased from 12 to 20 degrees and this has led to more side-by-side racing and increased passing opportunities. At the same time the banking was being increased, the track's pit road was also being redesigned, bringing it 275 ft. closer to the front stretch grandstand. This has greatly improved the fans view of pit stops, one of the most exciting aspects of the sport.
Just as Las Vegas has long been known as a city built to cater to those looking to win big by parlaying little Johnny's college fund into an early retirement, LVMS has been built to cater to those looking to enjoy their racing with a nice dose of ease of access, comfort, and even luxury on the side. The track is easily accessible from both Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Blvd, both of which parallel the speedway's grounds. I had heard that traffic was often horrendous for the Sprint Cup weekend at LVMS but I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, I arrived early and left a bit after each day's events had concluded; something that I would advise at most all NASCAR tracks if feasible.
The speedway staff, in conjunction with state & local authorities have seemed to develop an ingress/egress traffic plan around the property. A well-devised lane reverse plan has been enacted to speed more lanes towards the track pre-race and away from the track post-race. Parking is free at all speedway owned lots, as is the case at all Speedway Motorsports facilities. The speedway does offer one lot, called the "Lucky 7" lot that is a paid lot (pass good for all 3 days of the Sprint Cup weekend) but allows for a dedicated exit lane and first exit should you be in a rush to exit the property after the race has completed. It is the first lot to empty post-race. I did see a few privately owned lots nearby charging anywhere from $5 to $15 for parking, depending on the distance from the speedway's gates and ease of exit.
The speedway employs a very efficient tram system that fans can freely use to shuttle around the property. This system appeared to be extremely popular and waits do appear likely, especially at peak usage times close to the green flag and just after the checkered flag has flown. Should you have a disability or be arriving with someone who has a handicap need you will find an abundance of handicap accessible parking and a very friendly staff waiting to assist those in need. While observing one of the handicap parking areas I was pulled aside by an elderly person who told of how he has been to many NASCAR facilities and that Las Vegas is definitely one of the best and friendliest on the circuit for those with handicap needs. The track offers a number of camping options, both inside the track and outside. LVMS even offers a terraced area along the backstretch which is available for rent and offer a premium view of the action should you desire to be able to step out of your motorhome and be greeted immediately by the track below.
Once inside the gates the concourses are wide, easy to navigate, and signage is well placed and easily read. Stairs inside the seating bowl are clean and wide and railings are present to assist in the walk up or down to your seat. When it comes to seating at the track, three questions immediately need to be asked: 1.) Are they comfortable? You are going to be here all day, most likely for an entire weekend so your posterior needs to find comfort in your seat. 2.) Are the seats wide enough so as not to be crushed by your slightly-to-friendly seat neighbor? 3.) Are the aisles wide enough that you do not have to do the "one leg up and over" dance while trying to make your way to your seat 16 seats in from the aisle? Being a newer facility, the answer to these three questions are resoundingly positive. It is evident that seat spacing, sightlines, variety in seating types, etc. was given thought when it came to designing LVMS. Seatbacks, cup holders, and armrests are available on many seats inside the seating bowl.
Another important aspect of the race going experience is the restrooms. Sitting outside in the heat all day, all the while consuming large quantities of soda, water, and possibly an adult beverage or two means restrooms become an essential ally of the race fan. Those of us who have been to a good number of NASCAR facilities, and sports facilities in general, know that far too often long lines and waits are seen when it comes to restrooms. This is especially the case for the Ladies. The restrooms here at Las Vegas are plentiful and quite spacious. They are well lit and frequently cleaned and restocked. That having been said it is almost impossible to keep every stall of every restroom immaculate on race day but the custodial staff at LVMS does a wonderful job giving the conditions resulting from an influx of 130,000 thirsty (and in a hurry to not miss any of the action) race fans.
Ramps are present and easily accessible for those with handicap needs once inside the facility. Access to the Neon Garage is via a long pedestrian tunnel located along the main concourse just past the start/finish line. This tunnel leads under the main grandstand, track, and pit road and exits upwards directly into the center of the Neon Garage. Handicap access to the garage is also available courtesy of drive-up infield access.
The location of this track in Las Vegas alone makes it worth the trip. Factor in everything else and the intangibles of a Sprint Cup weekend in Las Vegas and it is no wonder that track management, Bruton Smith, and the entire Speedway Motorsports family have long desired a second date for LVMS on the Sprint Cup calendar. In randomly surveying a few fans, all of which were from states other than Nevada, I can safely say that fans also hold the feeling that LVMS is deserving of a second weekend. The consensus is that a second Sprint Cup weekend is inevitable, only a matter of when rather than if
Tickets prices fall squarely in the average of NASCAR tickets circuit wide and special offerings and deals are often readily available which can aid in making a race weekend at Las Vegas even more affordable. As Las Vegas Motor Speedway ages and race weekends pass and more history becomes associated with the facility the return on investment will only increase. A weekend in Las Vegas is rarely a bad idea and NASCAR made a no-brainer decision when they first awarded a race to this track. Bruton Smith made a no-brainer decision when he purchased this facility. As a fan, you will be making a no-brainer decision if you gather your friends and head to the desert for a Vegas party weekend, NASCAR style.
The "Neon Garage" might be the single most defining " fan' amenity at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Opened in 2007 the neon garage allows fans to get as close to the behind-the-scenes action as they can without a NASCAR issued Hot Pass. Neon Garage passes require an additional ticket that can be purchased in advance or upon arriving at the track. The Neon Garage is constructed in a diamond pattern and consists of four separate garages that house each of the Sprint Cup cars. Fans can walk above these garages and peer down through large windows as their favorite driver is conversing on race strategy with their crew chief. In the center of the Neon Garage fans descend stairs to ground level where you can listen to bands playing under the band shell, purchase concession items and souvenirs, and even take pictures with show cars on display. At this level, windows allow you to peer in at eye level as teams complete a final engine tune on race morning or get a real close-up picture taking opportunity. Windows are also available to allow fans to watch as the cars pass through the inspection process and see exactly what it takes to get the car certified by NASCAR officials to go out and take its respective spot on the starting grid. This is part of the NASCAR experience that fans are rarely privy. A few other NASCAR tracks now have similar setups but I am not sure that any of the tracks have a fan-based garage experience with as much pizzazz as LVMS.
In addition, pit road passes are available for purchase as an add-on, allowing controlled access to the pit road area in the hours leading up to the start of the race. In addition to the souvenir stands located inside the facility, which primarily cater to event and track specific memorabilia, outside the track you will find the many souvenir trailers that feature copious amounts of driver/team/car manufacturer specific gear available for purchase. The most popular drivers even have multiple trailers on-site and often drivers will stop by at some point during the race weekend to sign autographs for their fans.
The Las Vegas valley really gets excited when NASCAR comes to town and this is certainly evident on the Las Vegas strip itself. Show cars are visible around town in various spots, drivers often schedule guest appearances at sites such as the Freemont Street experience and there is even a NASCAR flavored celebrity poker tournament. In 2011, owner/driver Michael Waltrip even hosted an evening of comedy. On Thursday night of race week, the big rigs of NASCAR take over Las Vegas Blvd with a hauler parade as they make their way from the strip to the track. Kids (and big kids alike) will get a real kick out of this free event as 43 big rigs head down the street at slow speed, lights ablaze, horns sounding. If I could leave you with a few words of advise for a NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas it would be these: sunscreen, ballcap, sunglasses, unopened bottle(s) of water, good tennis/running shoes, arrive early, and stay late. Most of all enjoy the sights and sounds of a race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If you cannot have fun at a NASCAR race in Vegas, where can you?
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3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
3730 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89158